The Gallery of Regrettable Food: Highlights from Classic American Recipe Books
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The Gallery of Regrettable Food: Highlights from Classic American Recipe Books

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,128 ratings  ·  146 reviews

This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 11th 2001 by Clarkson Potter
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,193)
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I don't often laugh out loud with a book, but I did with this one! It provided a great leisurely Friday night with some friends on the couch, reading aloud the witty commentary on 50's cookbooks.

I was quite shocked (with all of the biting feminist-style remarks about men) that this book was written by a very enlightened man named James Lileks. Go James!

I love food fads!

Some of my MANY favorite quotes:

"Perhaps there are situations where you are happy to be served this supper. Perhaps there's a...more
Jul 19, 2008 Lori rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Retro People, humorists, foodies, pop culture mavens
Shelves: retro, pop-culture
My husband thought I was having a psychotic meltdown when I read this. I really sat in bed all night howling...tears streaming down as I toured the horrors of mid-twentieth century American cuisine. i read it cover to cover in one sitting and was left gasping -- thoroughly spent from the convulsive guffaws.

You want tuna in aspic? Check. How about those pigs-in-a-blanket? No problem. The "joys of jello"? Got that too.

This is not to be described. Just hilarious altogether. I want to start an enti...more
I *love* James Lileks. Though I hesitate to say so on a site dedicated to books, his website may be a better way to appreciate his full hilarious awesomeness-

Come on, Nazi grandma alone is worth the price of admission.
Or the "computers through time" series.

Get in touch with your inner snerk. Support this man! Visit his site. Somewhere in there waiting for you is that bizarre Wisconsin motel. And many other gems. It's a gen-u-wine laff-riot. And I am not o...more
Danielle Long
I got this book yesterday and started reading/looking at on my lunch break. WARNING!!!!! DON'T LOOK AT THIS BOOK ON YOUR LUNCH BREAK. Old pictures of food concoctions from cookbooks and magazines from the 60s and 70s. Made my stomach flipped and made me gag! However I did get a laugh at all the crazy food creations. Some of these creations were made to ward some guests away. A "How to"... to better sex, getting rid of the annoying relative and so on.

Thanks Brianna for recommending this book. I r...more
I know I'm supposed to laugh, but far too many of the "dishes" here look familiar in a bad-flashback kind of way. I am certain that my mother owned and used the cookbooks used as references by Mr. Lileks. Some of the illustrations included in the Gallery appear to be black-and-white, but trust me, they are not. I grew up eating an awful lot of grey food that looked just like the pictures. It was odd that the more "time-saving" a recipe was, the more upset my mother was with a lukewarm reception....more
This reminded me of the typical high school or college geek trying to be funny. A bit of sarcasm can be funny, but an entire book of it is just annoying. Thank heavens I had only borrowed it from the library--I'd have hated to waste money on this.
I enjoyed the vintage ads.
The pictures of food made me never want to eat again. Savory Jello? Who came up with that?
I came across this lady ( while searching for savory jello recipes. She is doing some interesting things, culinarily.
Lots of great historical information, too. I learned some stuff.
I think everyone alive should see this book.
I got this book thinking I'd get a whole slew of recipes that should never have been, but alas, what I got was a guy writing snarky and mean-spirited remarks about the foods and advertisements of the time. Does he really think that, for instance, putting ketchup into an ice cream sauce, would be tried by any housewife of that time by simply mooing ahead with the pack to produce these inedible results? That is the impression I got from reading what I did of this ridiculous book.

And when attacking...more
Mar 14, 2009 Rob rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009, humor
An astonishing look at mid-20th-century American cuisine as depicted in classic cookbooks, with side-splitting commentary by columnist James Lileks. Your gorge will rise, and your appetite flee, at lurid concoctions from an age when lard was considered a vitamin and spice, a deadly poison. Recoil in disgust from graphic illustrations of creamed brains on toast; radishes entombed in olive-flavored Jell-O; desserts whose defining flavor is Heinz Ketchup; and other horrors too numerous to mention....more
I thought this book sounded hilarious (and when I say hilarious, I mean hooolarious), but I was really disappointed. Lots of potential, but I just didn't think it was funny. Trying to be funny? Yes. Funny? No. I see from other reviews that I am alone in my opinion - it's ok, I'm an engineer - I'm used to being alone. My opinion stands!
I discovered James Lileks through a friend, who turned me on to his Institute of Official Cheer website. Lileks collections of horrifying recipes, food advice, and pictures of the most unappetizing "edible" items in the world would be funny enough . . . but the man's commentary on each picture is enough to make you cry with laughter for hours.
I choked on my own spit when I read a caption that included the phrase "banana-placenta sauce." Really gross, really funny.
VERY funny.
Thanks , Cousin . :)
Apr 03, 2008 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: stephanie
Recommended to Jennifer by: saw on steph's friend's list
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow! What a fun book. Humorous from beginning to end, I especially enjoyed the jell-o section. Who knew you could put hot dogs, cauliflower, green peppers, cucumber and fish in jell-O and call it lunch? Oh boy, I have so many recipe ideas now! HAHAHA!
Seriously, I remember eating orange jell-o with shredded carrots in it at a church pot-luck as a kid. What the heck were these people thinking? At least I never had to eat jell-o with hot dogs in it.

The book has great photos & humorous commenta...more
S. J.
Jun 19, 2013 S. J. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of the Author
Recommended to S. by: Husband
*3.3 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing - 5
* Pace - 4
* Plot development - N/A
* Characters - 7
* Enjoyability - 5
* Insightfulness - 6
* Ease of Reading - 7
* Photos/Illustrations - 6
Final Score: 40/70 = 57%


If pictures like the above leave you queasy, this is not the book for you. (I can barely look at this.)

*The Gush and Rant*

As I talked about in my review of Interior Desecrations, I have long enjoyed Lileks' website and spent many happy hours laughing until I couldn't take...more
So this book looks like it would be awesomely funny; sadly, I do not find it so. I was looking forward to a book that dissected our hilarious food history with salad molds and silly canned meat casseroles, but instead, this heaps pile after pile of bitterness on the buffet table of our parents' generation. There really doesn't seem to have been much skill involved in creating this book, either. The author took some old cookbooks--some produced for specific products like 7-Up or A-1, others focus...more
I thought I would enjoy this a lot more, but the author's attempts at humor came across as much more annoying than actually funny. He spends the entire book describing what he thinks pictures in old cookbooks look like--making the descriptions as disgusting as possible--instead of telling us what the food actually IS.

Two stars instead of one because the pictures were fun to look at, especially the meat-stuffed cabbage and hardboiled-egg penguins.
Based on the website, this book is a humorous look at cookbooks of the 1940s-60s. The commentary is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but mostly mildly amusing. The author points out that even then, people thought some of the marketing was ridiculous and saw company-sponsored cookbooks for what they are--a way to sell more product. Highlights include profiles of the books "How Famous Chefs Use Campfire Marshmallows," A-1's "Cooking for a Man: Tested Recipes to please HIM!," "So You'...more
Kathy Ferrell
Hilarious! I keep this on my cookbook shelf so I can take it out and leave it lying plain sight when I have dinner guests. This and a few more of its ilk, such as "White Trash Cooking", "The Food Stamp Gourmet" and Robert Crumb's "Waiting for Food".

Mr. Lileks has given us a real classic. Chock full of photos gleaned from all manner of publications from about 1972 on back, you will laugh out loud at perfect examples of WHY some women really did BELONG in the work place back then. The abuses that...more
Dave Peticolas

The online gallery at The Institute of Official Cheer is one of the few things that reliably makes me laugh until I cry. The book is a fine addition to the Institute's offerings.

Although the voice is a bit holier-than-thow, parts are hysterical.....and I even own one of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks! LOL! If housewives really made these dishes, how sad! Thank goodness I am not expected to produce a spread like is on the front cover!

And how much photography has advanced in 60 years!

After finishing: became VERY tiresome. As an indicator of 50's gender and family expectations, the research completed for this book is valuable. However, much of this lifestyle was th...more
I savored this laugh-out-loud illustrated, and humorously narrated, book based on fifties cookbooks. This author's dry wit and sarcasm had me in tears from laughing. I'm sure I've actually eaten some of the awful hi-lights in this book! Thanks to my sister for providing me a copy.
A thoroughly entertaining book. The book takes cookbooks from the 50's and 60's and shows all the ghastly terrible food photography and commentary. As a child of the 70's and 80's, my mother had many of these types of cookbooks stuffed in the cabinet above the stove. As I learned how to cook as a child, I thumbed through many of these cookbooks and I remember that exact style of food photography. If you were born in this era, you will greatly appreciate the wit and sarcasm of the author. I didn'...more
The best damned diet book I've ever read! If gazing at the photo of the Beet Pie Casserole doesn't put you off your feed, try reading all about the Creamed Brains on Toast OR the Tongue Rolls Florentine.

YUMMY! Makes my tummy rumble, but not in a good way...

Crammed full of color photos of the least appetizing appetizers, entrees, and desserts (who knew it was so easy to ruin Jello?) you've ever seen, this book will having you laughing your head off and vowing never to eat again --- at least not a...more
This book is hilarious, mainly because the people in my family actually have real recipe books full of recipes just like this. I know other people who come from families with the same sort of culinary history, and we all agree that we can't believe that most of these things exist. They are repulsive, and in several cases oddly sexual, in a very threatening sort of way. It's best if you scope out a half-dozen recipes at a time, however; if you try to read this book through in a couple of sittings...more
This book is simply hilarious: always good when I just need a frivolous laugh. Let's just say food photography has come a LOOONG way from 30's, 40's, and 50's. Pair that with Lileks' wry commentary throughout and you've got a comedic gem. Love this one!!!
Jul 07, 2008 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christy, Jenny
Shelves: food
Ha! What a scream. As a foodie, I love to peruse new cookbooks, and the library is full of them. Nestled in amongst the 'real' cookbooks was this extraordinarily funny work on OLD cookbooks. While you can flip idly from one page to the next, I realized that James Lileks' humour is best enjoyed if you read this in order as he covers one short cookbook at a time and often his acerbic wit builds upon the previous disgusting photo to tell a short tale of sorts. Need a sneak preview? Try his site htt...more
I have never before seen a food that made my stomach turn in disgust, until now. This book is a collection of pictures, from recipe books, that the author found. The recipe books were published in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It is unbelievable that anyone, even back then, would look at these pictures and recipes and think, "Huh, that looks delicious. I think I'll make that tonight." and that someone thought these recipes were good enough to publish. Also, the authors commentary adds the perfect amoun...more
Americans seemed to have loved disgusting unhealthy food for a long time. Popular recipes now may not include being set in aspic or include more than a few grains of pepper, but the love of processed salty meat with few to no vegetables is the American way!

The 50's were not a swell time, nostalgia fiends.

Also, sometimes the writing accompanying each recipe was too long, like a funny scene in a movie or show that goes on for too long thus rendering itself unfunny. Brevity is indeed the soul of wi...more
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